The issue of service dogs in public has been a bit of a hot topic recently. There is a lot of confusion about which dogs are considered service dogs, where service dogs are allowed to go, fake service dogs, service dogs of unusual breeds, whether or not service dogs must be certified, and what businesses are and are not allowed to say or do. We've already addressed which dogs are considered service dogs in this post here, (so check that out first) and we will discuss service dogs from a business/employee stand point in our next post. Our goal for today is to simply clarify the federal law regarding service animals. We'll explain what is (and is not) included in the law in the first section of the post, and then answer some common public access questions in the second section.
So... Is that dog allowed in here?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals with disabilities who have a service dog, are allowed to enter any space open to the general public, with their dog. This includes public transportation, restaurants, businesses, hotels, and any other public space.
(Note: this law gives access rights to the people, not to the dogs- it is understood that the people need these dogs the same way somebody who cannot walk needs a wheelchair; denying access to their dog is denying access to them. The law assures their public access regardless of if they have a dog with them.)
Currently federal law does NOT require
(many other countries do require these things, so plan accordingly if you wish to travel with your service dog)
- Service dogs to wear a harness. Though if the dog comes from a particular organization that organization may require the dog wear a harness when in public (this makes it easier for the general public to recognize the dog is working)
- That service dogs be (or show proof of being) certified or licensed. There are service dog organizations and trainers, some of which may provide, train and/or certify your dog for you, however anybody has the right to train their own service dog.
Please note: We, here at Right On Cue Dog Training, strongly encourage getting or certifying your service dog through an organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI). ADI is internationally recognized and respected for being a reputable certifying body. Dog/human teams which have been certified by them, or are trained by an ADI accredited program, are regularly tested in public throughout the dog's entire working life to ensure the team is still working effectively and safely, particularly in public spaces.
Now to answer some frequently asked public access questions:
Is that dog allowed in here?
a) the general public is allowed there (or)
b) the handler of the dog is an employee of that location.
It is a sterile environment such as an operating room.
(It should also be noted that from a legal standpoint, most religious facilities are not considered open to the general public, so while I've never encountered an issue in a religious building- you do technically need permission to bring the dog.)
Is the dog allowed in areas where food is served? What about in buffet lines?
Yes. People with service dogs are allowed to enter (with their dog) into restaurants, cafeterias, or any food establishment. It is specifically stated in the ADA that is illegal to deny these individuals service or to request that they sit in a particular location because they have a dog with them. The dog is allowed to walk through buffet lines, however, if it is eating (or otherwise directly contaminating) the food on the buffet line, this is considered a health hazard to the public and the business owner has the right to ask the person and dog to leave.
Can the dog come onto the airplane, bus, or train?
Yes, service dogs are allowed on all public transport. Depending on the type of transportation and size of dog, sometimes other reasonable accommodations (such as priority boarding on a flight) may be necessary.
Can the dog go to school with their client?
Yes. But to be honest there are sometimes more legal challenges with taking a dog into a public school with a student than there are with other public areas. This often happens because schools are required to provide accommodation and support to their students with disabilities and many schools feel they provide this accommodation in other ways, thus making the dog unnecessary. Furthermore, the dog must be on leash (unless that is not possible due to the nature of the disability) and under the control of the handler (in this case the student) at all times. This can become difficult with young children who are in a classroom setting.
As with all public access situations (but particularly this one) it is important for all involved parties to be conscientious of the others involved. Parents want what is best for their kids, and if they have seen the service dog be successful at home they understandably want that same success at school; on the flip side, public schools deal with a lot of legal challenges which means teachers have the challenge to try and accommodate the child with a disability, as well as the child with allergies, as well as the child who is extremely distracted by the presence of a dog. This means occasionally service animals at school can be a tricky situation (though sometimes there is no problem at all), so just remember to be understanding during conversations about service dogs whether you are the school administration, parent of a child who has a service dog, or the parent of another child in the classroom.
Can the dog stay in any hotel?
Yes, the dog is allowed in any hotel room, in any hotel, with their handler. It is also important to note that the hotel is NOT allowed to require that the handler sign a pet contract or pay any type of pet fee as the service animal is not legally considered a pet. They also cannot require that the handler stay in a pet-friendly room. However, even without signing a pet contract, the handler would be responsible for any damage caused by the dog (shedding is not considered damage).
Do service dogs have to be a particular size or breed in order to have public access?
No, any dog which has been individually trained to do at least 3 tasks for a person with disability can be a service dog, regardless of size or breed. Service dogs come in every size and shape imaginable! Service dogs are also exempt from municipality breed restriction laws (so you still have public access with your "bully-breed" service dog even if your city does not allow you to keep that particular breed of dog as a pet).
Questions about service dogs? Click here to send them our way, and we'll answer them in an upcoming post!
(No worries, we'll keep your question anonymous and won't use your contact information for any further correspondence unless you ask us to!)